from Founders Ministries
In recent years, there has been a recovery of the five points of Calvinism among many evangelicals, but there has not been a concomitant revival of the covenant theology of seventeenth century Puritanism as the rich soil in which Calvinistic soteriology grows. This post will not attempt to thoroughly defend every doctrine mentioned, but to show the connection between Calvinism and the theological covenants of covenant theology. The Synod of Dordt listed the five points of Calvinism, not in their contemporary order of “TULIP,” but in the order of “ULTIP,” which is the order I’ll be using here.
1. Unconditional Election. The eternal decree of unconditional election is the foundation of covenant theology and the doctrine of salvation. God chooses to save sinners not because of any foreseen goodness or conditions in them, but merely because of His good pleasure to redeem a people for Himself to bring Him glory. Speaking of unconditional divine election, Paul writes, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). There are no conditions in God’s choosing individuals for salvation. God’s choice is based entirely upon His sovereign will: “He has mercy on whomever He wills and He hardens whomever He wills” (Romans 9:18).
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(My Note: Sadly, Semi=Pelagianism represents the theology of many churches today, especially in America, and Semi-Pelagianism is error.)
from Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry/CARM
Semi-Pelagianism is a weaker form of Pelagianism (a heresy derived from Pelagius who lived in the 5th century A.D. and was a teacher in Rome). Semi-Pelagianism (advocated by Cassian at Marseilles, 5th Century) did not deny original sin and its effects upon the human soul and will, but it taught that God and man cooperate to achieve man’s salvation. This cooperation is not by human effort as in keeping the law but rather in the ability of a person to make a free will choice. The semi-Pelagian teaches that man can make the first move toward God by seeking God out of his own free will and that man can cooperate with God’s grace even to the keeping of his faith through human effort. This would mean that God responds to the initial effort of person and that God’s grace is not absolutely necessary to maintain faith.
The problem is that this is no longer grace. Grace is the completely unmerited and freely given favor of God upon the sinner, but if man is the one who first seeks God, then God is responding to the good effort of seeking him. This would mean that God is offering a proper response to the initial effort of man. This is not grace but what is due the person who chooses to believe in God apart from God’s initial effort.
Semi-Pelagianism says the sinner has the ability to initiate belief in God.
Semi-Pelagianism says God’s grace is a response to man’s initial effort.
Semi-Pelagianism denies predestination.
Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange in 529.
“All you need to do to be saved is to ask Jesus to come into your heart.” The problem with this statement is that it is not expressly biblical. The Bible nowhere mentions Jesus coming into a person’s heart. The wording generates a mental image that can easily lead to wrong impressions. The idea of Jesus entering a person’s heart is nowhere used in any gospel presentation in the Bible. Even the Scripture verse from which the “ask Jesus into your heart” concept is usually taken, Revelation 3:20, does not mention the heart or our asking Jesus to do anything. In context, Revelation 3:20 is speaking about the church fellowshipping with Jesus, not an individual person getting saved.
When the Bible gives a gospel presentation, it encourages people to believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31), receive (John 1:12), or change their minds, i.e., repent (Acts 3:19). That is the proper response to the gospel. We are to change our minds about our sin and about who Christ is, believe Jesus died and rose again, and receive the gift of eternal life in faith. We are to recognize that we are sinners (Romans 3:23), understand that we deserve to be eternally separated from God (Romans 6:23), trust that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24), and receive the gift of salvation God offers us (Ephesians 2:8–9). All of this is done in faith, with God’s enabling (John 6:44). Salvation is not something we do or earn. Salvation is something we receive from God due to His mercy and grace.
While asking Jesus to come into your heart, i.e., enter your life, is not explicitly biblical, it is also not necessarily anti-biblical, if it is done in the context of a presentation of the biblical gospel. If a person understands sin and its penalty, understands the payment Christ made on the cross, and is ready to trust Jesus alone for salvation, an invitation to “ask Jesus into your heart” is not necessarily wrong. In fact, it could even help a person understand that the Spirit of Christ comes to indwell the soul (see John 14:17). However, it is always best to use the terminology the Bible uses. “Ask Jesus into your heart” does not fully communicate what is actually occurring.
When we are sharing the gospel, we should be extremely careful what we say and how we say it. Even the word believe can be misleading if it is presented as intellectual assent (agreeing that certain facts are true) instead of as trust (relying on those true facts). Judas Iscariot believed certain facts about Jesus, but he never trusted Jesus for salvation. Salvation is not about believing a list of facts. Salvation is not about asking Jesus to come into your heart. Salvation is not even about asking God to forgive you. Salvation is about trusting in Jesus as your Savior, receiving the forgiveness He offers, by grace through faith. Salvation is about being made new through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
from Grace to You
One of the Devil’s more subtle schemes is leading believers away from sound doctrine. He knows that his best chance of immobilizing an effective Christian witness is through distraction with unscriptural, questionable, irrational, and shifting doctrines.
Even if we are not affected by any particular infiltration of false doctrine, our Christian walk can be greatly hampered by laziness, lack of vigilance, and simple ignorance regarding doctrinal basics. Bad doctrine or a weak understanding of sound doctrine makes us vulnerable to all sorts of bad practices, including a weak or non-existent standard of integrity.
The author of Hebrews reminds us where our anchor is and again urges us along the right path: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:8–9).
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Every Christian must be a theologian. In a variety of ways, this is something I tell my church often. And the looks I get from some surprised souls are the evidence that I have not yet adequately communicated that the purposeful theological study of God by lay people is important.
Many times the confused responses come from a misunderstanding of what is meant in this context by theology. So I tell my church what I don’t mean. When I say every Christian must be a theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or that every Christian must be a scholar or that every Christian must work hard at giving the impression of being a know-it-all. We all basically understand what is meant in the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Nobody likes an egghead.
But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical warrant to leave the duty of doctrine up to pastors and professors alone. Therefore, I remind my church that theology—coming from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (word)—simply means “the knowledge (or study) of God.” If you’re a Christian, you must by definition know God. Christians are disciples of Jesus; they are student-followers of Jesus. The longer we follow Him, the more we learn about Him and, consequently, the more deeply we come to know Him.
There are at least three primary reasons why every Christian ought to be a theologian.
What is our theological temperature? To answer this question, we recently partnered with Lifeway Research to conduct a poll of 43 questions relating to the doctrines of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, sin, salvation, the Bible, the church, and ethics. You can read all about the survey and see all the results at TheStateOfTheology.com. So, what’s our temperature?
Let me offer some broad stroke reporting of the findings. I’ll report. You decide.
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Mark D. Nanos, “Paul and the Jewish Tradition: The Ideology of the Shema”, Villanova University, Philadelphia, October 23, 2008, from http://www.mjstudies.com